By John Taffin, GUNS Magazine
As closely as I can count, I’ve had extensive experience with over 75 .357 Magnums. This includes single- and double-action revolvers, semi-automatic and single-shot pistols, as well as lever- and bolt-action rifles. This brings me to the latest .357 Magnum being offered to handgunners — the Taurus Raging Hunter, a sixgun especially made for hunting. After spending considerable shooting time, I can say this is singularly the most accurate double-action .357 Magnum revolver I have ever experienced.
More on this shortly.
In The Beginning
In 1935, a whole new chapter in the Book of Sixgunning was written with the arrival of the .357 Magnum. Phil Sharpe was a noted ballistics expert and handloader of the time. He was also a good friend of Col. Doug Wesson. On a hunting trip together they used a pair of .38/44 Outdoorsman revolvers with heavy loads Sharpe had developed. This was in the early 1930s and Sharpe began work on developing the .357 Magnum case by lengthening the .38 Special brass while Wesson went about developing a new revolver that could handle the pressure which would be developed.
The first .357 Magnum, actually a pair of them, was used successfully by Col. Wesson to hunt pronghorn antelope, elk, moose and even grizzly bear. Phil Sharpe had designed the bullet for use in the .357 Magnum, a cast SWC of about 155 grains in weight. For the next two decades the .357 Magnum was the most powerful factory handgun/cartridge combination available. Handgun hunters and law enforcement personnel took it up as well.
Then everything changed — the next new chapter in the Book of Sixgunning arrived with a new cartridge, the .44 Magnum. Achieving the same muzzle velocity as the .357 Magnum with a 240-gr. bullet, it was only the beginning. After the big .44 came the .41 Magnum, Heavy Loaded .45 Colt, .454 Casull, .475 and .500 Linebaugh and .480 Ruger. All more powerful than the .357 Magnum while fitting in standard-sized sixgun cylinders. The .357 Magnum was buried — almost!
All of these big bore mentioned cartridges are above the .357 Magnum in muzzle energy but it still doesn’t make the round any less effective than when Col. Wesson used it so successfully. In fact, with the current technological advances in ammunition and bullets, the .357 Magnum is better than ever. I would certainly not hesitate to use it on deer-sized game, antelope or feral pigs with the proper ammunition.
The Taurus .357 Magnum has a barrel length of 8-3/8″ and a weight, according to my postal scale, of 3-1/2 lbs. (56 oz.). In my experience, this package makes for the most comfortable shooting .357 Magnum. There was a time when most of us were too macho to admit any sixgun was more than we could handle but this all changes with age as our hands become more tender. For any shooter who wants as much power as is possible to easily handle, this revolver is worthy of a good look.
The weight is attained by several factors such as the heavy full-length barrel shroud. The barrel itself is a steel sleeve inserted into an aluminum housing. The housing has a full-length underlug and the top of the shroud, from the front of the frame to 2″ behind the front sight ramp, consists of a wide Picatinny rail with 13 mounting slots. This makes mounting a scope very easy and for some of my shooting tests I used a Leupold 2X LER scope with Leupold PRW rings.
Not only is the Raging Hunter easily scoped, it also has excellent adjustable sights. The front sight is a black post pinned into the ramp while the rear sight is black with a square notch perfectly matching the front sight for my eyes. The rear sight blade is also slanted backwards to help reduce glare. This whole rear sight fits into the top of the frame and is easily adjustable for both windage and elevation.
The cylinder of the Raging Hunter holds seven rounds of .357 Magnum, or .38 Special should one be so inclined. The cylinder is locked both back and front with thumb locks. The cylinder releases by pushing the rear lock forward while pushing the front thumb piece downward. It is much easier accomplished than it sounds. The frame is stainless steel while the sights, shroud, hammer and trigger are finished in matte black, making for an eye pleasing two-tone color combination.
In addition to the weight of the Raging Hunter, felt recoil is also reduced by factory-tuned porting and a gas expansion chamber designed to disperse gases directionally, reducing muzzle flip. This is accomplished via four round holes on both sides of the front sight. At the other end of the Raging Hunter we have full wrap-around, finger-groove stippled rubber grips with a built-in red-colored cushion insert along the back strap. I always wear gloves when I shoot because my hands are much more tender than they used to be. I do not use a padded mitt but simply a golfing or batter’s glove. With this .357 Magnum the recoil was minimal enough I did not have to wear a glove.
Everything about the Raging Hunter .357 Magnum has been definitely positive up to this point, however there is one negative — trigger pull. The double-action pull is quite easy and smooth, however the single action pull registers 7-1/2 lbs. on my Brownells Trigger Gauge. This is at least double what it could be on a dedicated hunting sixgun, as the Taurus is clearly designed and so-named. If I had to make a choice between good sights and a good trigger, I’d pick the sights every time — but I really had to concentrate with this heavy trigger. At least it’s an easy fix.
For test-firing the .357 Magnum Raging Hunter I used both factory loads and hand loads, cast bullets and jacketed bullets, lightweight, standard weight and heavyweight bullets ranging from 125 up to 200 grains. Six factory loads and 10 handloads were used, fired with both the factory iron sights and the Leupold scope installed. I started with the scope in place and my first six shots at 25 yards with Black Hills 158 JHPs measured 5/8″ — the first indication this had to be a special sixgun. Although the Raging Hunter is a seven-shooter I always give myself a stress-reducing mulligan which is the closest I ever get to golf. All of the groups mentioned were the best six shots at 25 yards with the 2X scope in place and 20 yards with the iron sights.
With loads fired with the scoped Raging Hunter, the Buffalo Bore 158 JHP, SIG SAUER 125 FMJ, HPR 125 JHP all gave 3/4″ groups. Likewise, several handloads such as a Sierra 170 JHC with 4.2grF AA#9, ranging at 1,397 fps, give the same result. Several rounds grouped right at one inch and the “worst” group was 1-1/8″ for six shots. I think this is astounding performance!
The scope was then removed and I went with iron sights at 20 yards. The Black Hills factory 158 JHP that previously gave me a 5/8″ group at 25 yards with the scope in place, “widened out” to 3/4″ for six shots at 20 yards using the iron sights. I was especially gratified with my results using cast bullets in the Raging Hunter. In addition to the other handloads, I also went with my favorite cast hunting bullet for the .357 Magnum — the NEI 200-gr. flat-nose gas check. With 12.0 grains of #2400 it clocks out just over 1,300 fps and put six shots in 1-1/8″ using both the scope and iron sights.
The real surprise for me was the Lyman #358429 Keith bullet. Cast hard, this one weighs just over 160 grains and can be very picky about how it shoots in both .38 Special Heavy Loads and .357 Magnum Loads. Over 14.0 grains of #2400, it clocked out at a respectable 1,250 feet per second and gave a 1″ group with the scope and 1-1/4″ with iron sights.
I threw out a lot of numbers and data but it shows exactly what a great-shooting sixgun the Raging Hunter is. With all the testing I did — 20 loads fired both with the scope in place and iron sights — the largest groups were 1-1/4″, which to me is astounding. One can only wonder what this pistol would do with a decent trigger pull and perhaps someone much younger who can really shoot.
Taurus will never see this particular sixgun again — one postage stamp and the check is on the way to Taurus.